Thursday, April 06, 2006

the trek, day 3 - altitude sickness

we were awoken with 6am tea, followed by 6:30am washing water, followed by 7am breakfast, followed by a 7:30 departure. this would be the routine followed most mornings. hank was kept up all night hy cow bells. apparently he's a very light sleeper. i wondered if my snoring was keeping him up too, but after last night's fart-fest, i didn't really care if it did.

as we prepared to leave, hank wanted to show me an apparently extremely impressive pile of human shit on a rock (not his). while indulging him, i accidentally brushed my leg against the plant darcy said i must never touch. immune to poison ivy and poison oak, i hoped i might be immune to whatever this was as well. i was not. a reddish, painful bistering appeared almost immediately. i forced myself to ignore it. worst of all, the pile of shit on a rock wasn't even that impressive.

we hiked straight up the mountain and into a cloud bank. darcy told us how nice the views would be if we could see them. we were able to see some rhododendrons blooming along the path. the lower altitude red and some of the pink were in bloom, but the higher altitude yellow and white were not. darcy told us how magnificent it would be 2 weeks from now. hooray.

at about 9000 feet, i became suddenly light-headed. though there's no way to know who might get altitude sickness, and it's in no way related to how healthy you are, i still couldn't believe that i might be succumbing to it. still, we were very close to our campsite now, so i continued hiking. we arrived in tshoka (pronounced choka), at about 9200 feet. it was only 1pm. rather than just a shack surrounded by shit, this place was a tiny, picturesque village. i was still feeling drunk from the altitude. a poster on the wall of our trekking hut had a list of altitude sickness symptoms to watch out for, and relayed the story of a boy who had never woken up from his sleep at 8000 feet when his symptoms were ignored. i wished i hadn't read that. i distracted myself by going shopping. of the 8 buildings in the village, 2 of them sold stuff to trekkers at grossly inflated prices. it was already colder than i thought it would be, so i bought a pair of nepali mittens from a roly-poly sikkimese woman.

i endured hank and trish's nightly fart-a-thon and even countered with a few of my own (which they deemed pathetic), before finally settling into a stinky sleep, hopeful that i'd be properly acclimatized by morning.

i awoke at 2am, breathing heavily and feeling like i was about to vomit. i sat up in the cold pitch black for hours, preparing to run outside into the rain when the moment struck. my breathing was labored, and my body would occasionally shake, but not from the cold. i was now almost convinced i must have altitude sickness, and mulled over the fact that i would almost certainly have to head down the mountain. the vomit never came. i felt better enough to fall back asleep.

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